Mental Illness


Mental Illness Essay, Research Paper

The name The name of my book is Mental Illness by Gilda Berger. Mental illness is a disorder characterized by disturbances in a person s thoughts, emotions, or behavior. The term mental illness can refer to a wide variety of disorders, ranging from those that cause mild distress to those that severely impair a person s ability to function. Today, mental illness is considered to range from such ideas as eating disorders to personality disorders.

Mental illnesses have been reported as far back as to 4000-5000 years ago. The reason scientists believe that mental illness has existed this long is due to anthropologists finding skulls with holes gashed in them. These skulls look very similar to skulls that have had the process of trepanning performed on them. The process of trepanning is simply the surgical procedure of creating a hole in the skull. Scientists believe that this procedure was done in order to let out the evil spirits which doctors thought possessed the mentally ill of this time. The literature of ancient Greece also contains evidence of the belief that evil spirits or demons controlled the mentally ill. Not only the Greeks believed in the evil spirit theory, writings from the early Babylonian, Egyptian, and Chinese civilizations have also shown evidence that mental illness was believed to be a possession by demons-using beatings, restraint, and starvation to try to drive out the evil spirits.

These beliefs somewhat cooled down as time continued to move on, but once again popped up as America was starting to be formed. In 1692 and 1693 the Salem witchcraft trials began. At this point in time mental illness was suggested to be associated with the devil, so those with mental illnesses were thought to be witches. Those who were thought to be witches were given unfair trials and quick death penalties. Many innocent people who simply had a mental disorder were burned at the stake

because of the lack of knowledge about this natural disorder. As time moved on, people saw that the mentally ill were not possessed, but that they were simply sick. Rather than kill all of the mentally ill, society decided it would be better to lock them away in a place that would be safe for them which was away from other people. One of the first and most notorious institutions was Bethlehem Hospital. Although Bedlam was founded on high principles it was soon noted as being wild, crowded, noisy, and filthy. Patients could be found in cold, dark, unsanitary cells with almost no clothing on in the Bedlam institution.

Another main aspect of Mental Illness is that there are many different kinds of mental illnesses. Some of the mental disorders mentioned in the book are senility, alcoholism, and drug abuse. Senility has become a basic epidemic in the United States, with five percent of people over sixty-five experiencing symptoms of memory loss, disorientation to time and place, and impaired thinking ability. Senility is not a disease based on the idea that as age sets in the brain begins to slow down, but simply that other diseases cause older people more problems in everyday life than thought before. Senility can be preceded by many other disorders including arteriosclerosis, strokes, Alzheimer s disease, and severe cases of depression.

Common substance-related disorders include alcoholism and drug abuse. In addition to the effect already given by the abused drug, drug abuse can contribute to symptoms of other mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Most substance-related disorders include alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, and sedatives. Alcoholism is regarded as a disease by some who drink excessively and are generally unable to control how much they drink and cannot function well physically, socially, or mentally. Babies born to alcoholic mothers have a death rate eight times that of babies in general. Those that survive have a very good chance of being mentally retarded. The reason I chose to write about alcoholism is because I remembered the class doing a section in the book about a baby having fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FAS is made when a child has abnormalities in the three following categories: (1) the characteristic set of facial features; (2) retarded physical growth; and (3) mild to moderate mental retardation. FAS is weird to me for two reasons: first, if alcoholism is a mental disorder, than is drinking and giving a baby FAS a form of genetic passage of mental disorders? Secondly, crack babies are born with deformities because of the mother s negligence, should FAS be considered to fit in that same category of offenses?

The final important section in Mental Illness is entitled Rights of Mental Patients . Mental patients just as everyone else have rights, which must be recognized and respected. Over the last thirty years there has been an increased concern for the rights of minorities, one of which is the mentally ill. There are a few basic questions that sum up all of the concerns that families, patients, and doctors feel. How much power should psychiatrists have over the lives of their patients? Can the state hospitalize patients against their own will? Do patients have the right to refuse treatment? Health professionals seem to believe that they most understand their patients and that they should have the most control over where their patient ends up. On the other hand, advocates of patients rights say that under the Constitution of the United States each person is free to make his or her own choices about their health. These two views, the medical and the legal, are important in defining the rights of those who suffer the symptoms of mental illness. The ideals that most coincide with mental patients are commitment and release, right of privacy, right to treatment, right to refusal of treatment, and the rights of a criminal defendant.

Mental Illness was a very good book. It was full of informative charts and graphs. I believe the reason I enjoyed this book so much was because it was not drawn out and longwinded on any one subject. This book got the point across to the reader and then moved on to another subject. If it had not been for the shortened chapters, (which equals a shorter book) and the graphs and charts that were included this could have been a very boring book. Mrs. Berger did a great job not to hang on to one idea for too long, say what needs to be known, and then move on to another subject. The title caught my eye as I was reading the subject list on the computer and when I picked up the book, the picture on the front cover had my imagination starting to think about what could possibly be inside. The cover was one of the major reasons I picked Mental Illness, but it was definitely not the reason I enjoyed it.

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